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Five-star thinking

Five-star thinking

In this age of affordability, how can luxury survive without selling out? Gaurav Sinha, managing director of Insignia branding agency, discusses how five-star hotels can maintain both occupancy and credibility.

June 10, 2010 5:32 by

How does a city renowned for its excesses in architecture and exalted for its ability to create unparalleled luxury experiences gear up to survive the impact of the downturn? And how does it demonstrate resilience as it matures into an international leisure tourism destination?

Dubai’s strategy should be to move away from talk of prices and towards talk about experience enhancement. The ideal situation for every hotelier is to maintain or increase average room rates and protect occupancy levels through the year. The tempting quick fix would be to drop room rates to put heads on beds, but that would definitely dilute or even destroy a hotel’s brand equity in the luxury segment.

Business today is about going back to basics. The economic downturn has only amplified the need for us to improve what we are usually meant to do. Travel companies and hotel operators became complacent in the noughties, as latent demand converted into passive sales and it was merely a matter of taking bookings. Now footfall in travel agencies has dropped, people are shopping smarter, the competition is getting wiser, and customers wants more for less. Look at to get a glimpse of how customer opinions become a brand’s reality; true success is about turning this transparency into a triumph by making one’s brand a compelling aspiration. A classic example is nearly a million people viewing the Emirates first class cabin on, witnessing the re-introduction of glamour to air travel.

In this instance, the only sustainable strategy for protecting luxury experiences is to enrich them with authenticity, sincerity and humility. This boils down to service standards and the culture the brand brings to the guest’s experience within the resort – the moment of truth.

One cannot compromise on details while remaining true to the long-term horizon. The St. Regis in Bali offers a beach-house that is exceptional in design and complements it with innovative offerings like an attached maid’s quarter and butlers who offer complimentary canapés and wine – things that remain true to the basics of luxury experiences.

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  1. J Pop on June 11, 2010 5:57 pm

    Dubai & Abu Dhabi are infactuated with the word “Brand”, as if it’s a new word just included in their vocabulary and they can’t wait to use it.

    Customer experience defines the lame brands for the good brands, not some detached over-paid “marketing guru” sitting in an glass office who’s usually more interested in “brand perception”.

    Do a good job and your customers will come back, if you don’t…say goodbye!

  2. Andrew on June 13, 2010 4:25 am

    Consumer experience is a core part of branding, that seems to have been missed.

    When both cities also understand that pleasing visitors isn’t quite as important as pleasing residents, who actually have to make the place work – we might see some real progress in the quality of live vs cost.

    Simply put, the Emirates isn’t value for money like it was 10 years ago.


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